Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is so grateful to our supporters, allies and members, who work hard every day to make improvements to the U.S. food system. In 2023 we had some important successes along with some continuing challenges and frustrations with government policies that impede the viability of independent operations engaged in providing locally and sustainably grown food to their communities.
As 2023 comes to a close FTCLDF wishes to celebrate its successes and steady push against unfair policies that harm smaller, independent producers.
2023 Highlights of Services to Members
In 2023, FTCLDF diligently worked to:
- Provide legal and member services through 3,000 interactions with members, donors, and stakeholders.
- Handle over 600 legal matters ranging from business licenses, to litigation, to government inspections.
- Work with hundreds of members to create dairy and meat agreements, flock share agreements, and support cottage (homemade) food operations.
- Provide educational resources both to FTCLDF members and at events throughout the country.
- Defend members’ use of livestock guard dogs in the face of local government challenge.
- Provide increased policy work to combat unfair food regulation, such as support for the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act (the PRIME Act).
Member Emergency Hotline
Our Member Emergency Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the event of a surprise visit, inspection, or notice regarding a member’s farm or related farm business. We always have an attorney on-call to be on the phone quickly during an emergency event. While we focus on preventing issues for our members, when emergencies do arise, we have the hotline.
This year, we fielded calls from all over the country regarding hundreds of farm and food business related issues for your fellow farmers, homesteaders, and cottage food producers. Some of the emergency calls we received this year were about:
- Actions by local departments of agriculture to shut down meat or poultry processing,
- Numerous surprise visits from regulators,
- Multiple accusations from local health departments,
- Conflicts and fines from local authorities regarding farm operations.
I greatly appreciate your help in navigating the rules governing trickier farm products and selling products in multiple states. My membership in the FTCLDF is one of the best investments I’ve made this year—especially as we are planning our move from WA to ID.
– Suzanne Johnson and Tim Dittmer
2023 Legal Challenges with Broad Impact
While they remain in progress, FTCLDF continues to work on matters that impact many independent farms in a particular region or across the country. It is critically important to fight these unfair laws, and unfair applications of laws, to prevent an unchallenged precedent to be set.
Michigan refuses to apply the state’s “Right-to-Farm” Law, alleging that small farms are violating local ordinances, even when engaged in protected agricultural activities.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture demanded, without any rule change, that nearly all small, sustainable livestock and dairy operations obtain a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit. We are working to challenge the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s new policy.
FTCLDF is challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement that a small, local food producer obtain a costly commercial kitchen license in violation of Maine’s Food Sovereignty Act and Right to Food Constitutional Amendment.
In several states pastured poultry producers are caught between a federal law that allows for on-farm poultry processing exemptions, and restrictive state laws that restrict on farm processing. Producers are unclear of their rights.
In areas where vacation homes are on the increase, towns are showing favor to wealthy landowners’ desire for “quiet enjoyment of their land,” penalizing hard-working farmers. We help members navigate these issues.
2023 Policy Work
FTCLDF is increasing its commitment to improving policy to better support independent producers. Unfortunately, the U.S. food system is designed to support centralized, corporate interests, which creates undue burden on smaller producers. We are working with allies to help pass the PRIME Act which would permit sales of meat processed at custom processors, as well as other potential changes to the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
We are assisting members in various states on policy changes, such as the improvements to state cottage food laws and legalization of raw dairy in Wisconsin and Iowa. To read more about policy improvements throughout the country, please read FTCLDF’s Legislative Summary.
FTCLDF also circulated 27 Action Alerts in 2023 urging readers and members to contact their legislators to act on policy improvements. We will continue to urge members and supporters to contact policymakers and encourage positive change.
Increased Education, Collaboration and Public Events
FTCLDF cannot make the needed food system changes alone. We are working with partners to push for policy change, beginning to publish more educational articles, speak on podcasts, present and/or exhibit at key conferences most relevant to regenerative farms, cottage food producers and concerned consumers.
Member webinars continue to be a hit and have included some guests on topics outside of our missions, such as business formation, as well as on some of our favorite topics such as poultry processing, cottage foods, Livestock Guardian Dogs, and this year the 2023 Farm Bill.
FTCLDF Continues to Grow
Our membership base and number of supporters continues to grow each year. In late 2023, we had an exciting leadership change as well, welcoming Petter Ruddock as the new President of FTCLDF. In addition, FTCLDF continues to grow its Attorney Network and volunteer base, which is vital to expanding operations. If you have interest in joining the team in any way, please let us know!
Help Us Help Our Nation’s Independent Farmers, Ranchers, and Producers
FTCLDF sincerely thanks those who have supported this work throughout the year. Your continued financial support will provide increased legal representation and policy change that supports independent farms, food producers, and robust local food systems. Thank you for making any financial contribution that you can.